May 11, 2015

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

What exactly is communication? It is when one person conveys an idea, and others receive it as the originator intended. Feedback is then provided that again transfers concepts back to the originator. In grade school I can remember a game called gossip. We sat in a circle, and the teacher would whisper a sentence into the first child’s ear. It would be whispered to the next child and go around the circle. Finally the last child would say what he or she heard to the group. Invariably it was very different from what was first said.

As a priest for over 30 years and now as a bishop, I never remember anyone saying, “We have good communication here.” As hard as you try to announce an event, share a concept, or disseminate a plan, someone doesn’t get the information. Today with email, text messaging, and social media it is easier to start communication, but receiving remains a problem. We are now bombarded with data and information to the point that it is difficult to discern what is important and what isn’t.

God has a similar problem. Most people believe prayer is the activity of talking to God. Actually prayer is a form of COMMUNICATING with God. This means that you not only talk with God, but you are to be still and let God talk to you. I imagine God gets frustrated when all we do is talk to him, but he never gets a chance to respond.

I like the phrase, “less is more.” What often passes as communication isn’t worth reading. I like hearing from people on Facebook but don’t need to learn how the prep procedures are going the day before a colonoscopy. In contrast maybe the best communication device is an ancient one. How about a handwritten letter placed in the mail? This may hard for some young people who can only “print” a letter because many schools don’t teach cursive writing anymore.

With all our means of communication, I find keeping up with all this technology time consuming. Is this part of a Christian lifestyle? If Jesus had access to this stuff, how would he use it? Would he still make time to leave the smart phone behind and go off by himself to pray? I think he would. He also would call for a Sabbath time away from the deluge of communication. God wants us to do more than stare at a smart phone all day. Perhaps we could all install a new app on our phones. It would be called, “shut down!” You would push it, and the phone would say to the rest of the world, “I am not available. I have an appointment with God!” With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,